Sunday, January 29, 2006

Undoing The Year

As King Gyanendra's government prepares to complete its first year in office, Maila Baje is gripped by one of those persistent "what-if" moods.
Suppose the monarch hadn't acted the way he did on Feb. 1, 2005.
Would the UML have pulled out of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's coalition government? After all, street pressure had been mounting against the party's continued participation in the coalition.
More significantly, would the UML have suffered another split? Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary and other ministers representing the party had become increasingly vocal in resenting UML leaders' lectures on how they should work.
A formal act of insubordination had every likelihood of occurring.
Say the UML pulled out of the government – split or no split -- would the Nepali Congress of Girija Prasad Koirala have joined the coalition. Deuba's explicit recommendation to the king on restoring the House of Representatives might have been enough to entice the grand ol' man.
Would that move have united the Nepali Congress? (Provided, of course, that the king went along.) Or would it have formalized the split, once rival Congress factions competed for plum ministerial portfolios.
And the Maoists? Would they have continued to rule out negotiations with the "slave" and sought direct talks with the "master"? In a face-to-face with King Gyanendra, what would Prachanda have said? "Let bygones be bygones, Your Majesty. We need your support as head of state to earn international legitimacy.
"King or President for Life, what difference would it make to you? Of course, President would help us tame our cadres."
Would Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, deprived of the premiership in the spring of 2003 when the United States declared the Maoists terrorists when they had come to the peace table, have gone public with the simmering discontent within his organization?
By now King Gyanendra probably would have paid that much-delayed visit to India. (Remember how he arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport after months of postponement, only to turn around having learned of India's former premier P.V. Narasimha Rao's death?)
What would Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have proffered? "Your Majesty, we agree that the politicians have made a mess of Nepal. We also recognize Your Majesty's inability to sit idly by. But in this day and age, we don't think the Musharrafication of Nepal would be a wise idea.
"Instead, we would support a council of ministers drawing representation from all the major political forces, excluding, of course, the Maoists. While we recognize Your Majesty's prerogative to choose your ministers, we would favor Surya Bahadur Thapa as chairman. Having time-tested friends would count a lot, especially during these difficult times for both our countries."
And the rest of us? Maybe we would be witnessing a broad Red front, consisting of the UML and the factions led by Rohit, Amik Serchan, C.P. Mainali et al, on the streets still wondering whether it should forge a working alliance with Baburam's faction of the Maoists.